Many people in my life know that I’ve been unemployed and underemployed for an extended amount of time. When I searched around for budget-tightening tricks, I asked my social network for suggestions. A friend responded, “have you tried using the local food bank?” Looking at my budget spreadsheet, it became clear: this suggestion would save me about $300/month.
I was very thankful for my social network, though I was concerned that potential employers could use that same social network to judge me from their pedestals of power and privilege. My pride was also an obstacle, but I got over myself with each visit to the food bank.
Over time, I also discovered that more people than expected either have used or currently use food bank services. Those people could benefit from my example if I were open and strong about my situation and choices. How could I be strong, though?
There was a surprising amount of Full Circle Farms (local, organic to Seattle), Trader Joe’s, Puget Consumer Coop (PCC), Whole Foods, Starbucks and other brands that came through my particular food bank. The thing was that the food was generally close to expiration, whether it was produce, packaged meat/veggie protein, or packaged sandwiches/salads/hummus/salsa/etc. I had to be prepared to use my resources: refrigerator, freezer, canning, pantry and cooking space. Each resource would be used to their max if I didn’t want the food to quickly go to waste.
I discovered over time that I greatly valued my dormant and yet-to-be-explored creative cooking skills. I also hungered to learn more about how to preserve foods, experimenting with jams and making my own wine. Voila! This unenviable position could be viewed from a stronger perspective! While I received ingredients from the food bank that I might not otherwise spend money on, I had nothing to lose for taking the handouts and making something new and delicious out of them. Posting about my experiments and garnering ideas from others online became my new challenge based loosely on the television show Iron Chef. Iron Shawna was born.